Microsoft updates Xbox

Photographers crowd around Microsoft Corp.'s next-generation Xbox One entertainment and gaming console system after it was officially revealed Tuesdayh. The original Xbox debuted in 2001, and its high-definition successor premiered in 2005. (AP/Ted S. Warren)

Ted S. Warren

Microsoft thinks it has the one.

The company unveiled the Xbox One, an entertainment console that promises to be the one system households will need for games, television, movies and other entertainment. It will go on sale later this year for an undisclosed price.

For the past two years, Microsoft has led the gaming industry in console sales with the Xbox 360. But it's been eight years since that machine came out, and Microsoft is the last of the three major console makers to unveil a new system.

The stakes are higher as Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are all using their latest machines to not only draw gamers but also command the living room. That could translate into revenue from deals with content providers and sales of movies and music.

Don Mattrick, Microsoft's president of interactive entertainment business, said the company has spent the past four years working on the “all-in-one home entertainment system.”

At an hour-long presentation at the company's Redmond, Wash., headquarters on Tuesday, Microsoft executives used voice controls to seamlessly switch back and forth between watching live TV, listening to music, playing a movie and browsing the Internet — all while running apps for fantasy football and chats. It showed how users could watch live sports on TV while getting updates on their fantasy leagues on a split screen.

Xbox One is the third entry in the latest round of the “console wars.” It follows Nintendo Co.'s launch of the Wii U in November and Sony Corp.'s tease in February for the upcoming PlayStation 4. Each of the next-generation consoles have shifted away from simply serving as gaming machines, as they incorporate streaming media apps and social networking features.

With the Xbox One, people will be able to get a feed of TV channels from their cable provider. The Xbox One has its own guide and lets people change channels by voice command.

Senior Vice President Yusuf Mehdi demonstrated how the console switched quickly between channels after saying show names such as “Mary and Martha” or commands like “watch MTV.” His voice command of “What's on HBO?” brought up the channel guide for HBO.

The interface for the TV goes well beyond the functionality in the Wii U, which still requires users to press buttons to change the input source on the TV. Xbox One seamlessly switched between games, movies and TV shows with a single voice command.

Microsoft also unveiled a new version of its camera-based Kinect system with better motion and voice detection. The new console will also add the ability to play Blu-ray discs, matching what Sony has in its older PlayStation 3.